Ad Blockers: Who Loses the Right to Survive?

The rapid growth of ad blocking software in Europe has rattled publishers. The figures say that up to 35% of online users, especially younger ones, block ads. With the shift to mobile, this may get worse. Some carriers have given thought to stripping mobile ads on behalf of their users. And a new Israeli company, Shine, launched a mobile ad blocker that allows users to strip mobile ads themselves.  When asked why users have a right to do this, Shine argues that mobile ads cost users 10% to 15% of data plans, deplete battery life and decrease l page load times, so users should have the option to block them.

Shine’s entire marketing program is based on the users’ “rights” not to be charged data charges to see ads. The company even refers to ad tech as “malware,” although the percentage of malware masquerading as malware is growing increasingly smaller. ZEDO has been active in  industrywide anti-malware efforts for years and they are working. We have built the technology to spot it and get it off our network.

Unfortunately, the courts have so far  still tended to side with the ad blockers. Ad blocking has  been deemed a legal business, and mobile device owners (unsurprisingly), also have the right to control what is on their screens.

Really? What about the publisher’s right to stay in business? If the user won’t pay for content (and a major percentage of users will not), and advertisers cannot have their ads seen, who exactly will pay the cost of free content?  The best selling apps, according to App Annie, which surfaces and rates all apps, are free, indicating users are no more willing to pay for apps or app content than they are to pay for news on the web.

Traditionally, the advertiser has also had rights — the right of free speech to market products to the audience in return for paying the cost of ads. And the publisher certainly has rights: the right to be in business and sell his inventory to an advertiser for a fair price.

Compounding this messy situation is that, when you look into the business models of most ad blockers they make their money from sites that pay them to be “whitelisted.” This is a form of blackmail, but publishers must pay so their advertisers can be seen.

If the use of ad blockers keeps growing, it will force the institution at long last of paid content on the internet. After all, one way publishers can retaliate might be to block access to their sites by anyone who is running an ad blocker, unless they are willing to pay for admission to the site or pay the cost to read a specific piece of content. The internet’s 20-year “summer of love” might finally be over. Publishers have to eat, too, you know.